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College of Engineering students group host 1st ever Hackathon competition

Boston University held its first Hackaton Friday, March 21. Eric Hsio, the CTO at Verbal Care, encourages the student hackers with stories of his own success. PHOTO BY ASHLYN ROSEN/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF
Boston University held its first Hackathon Friday. Eric Hsio, the CTO at Verbal Care, encourages the student hackers with stories of his own success. PHOTO BY ASHLYN ROSEN/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFFStudeBU Build

Boston University student groups teamed up with the College of Engineering’s department of Electrical and Computer Engineering to host BU’s first 24-hour Hackathon Friday and Saturday.

The Make BU Hackathon gave students the opportunity and tools to collaborate to design mobile apps, programs and other high-tech projects from scratch, said ECE Academic Programs Manager Austin Alexander.

“The students are going to be getting together and using the knowledge that they’re learning in their classes here and work on software programs together,” Alexander said. “It seems like [at] these kinds of events where people get together and they’re together for an extended period of time, they’re actually able to get a lot done.”

Student groups BU Builds, Boston University Digital Media Club, the Global App Initiative, BU Computer Engineering Club  and Open Web BU worked with Terrapin Computing to sponsor the Hackathon.

Alexander said that networking opportunities would be available at the Hackathon, which hosted multiple ECE alumni and representatives from global technology companies who acted as mentors and judges.

ENG freshman Alexandra Miller-Browne said her favorite part of the Hackathon was the social aspect.

“I got to meet new people around here at BU who do the same things that I do,” she said. “It’s awesome to meet other people who enjoy designing and hacking like I do.”

“Networking is probably a piece of it, but it’s a fun experience and a lot of learning happens, and that’s probably the main goal,” Alexander said. “There is also always potential that people get together… [and] start working together on an idea.

Santiago Beltran, an ENG freshman whose team created a word puzzle game, said while the 24-hour time slot seemed daunting, he valued the knowledge he gained while building his project.

“We decided to take on a whole new project and see what we could do in one night,” Beltran said. “… There’s always the stress of trying to figure out why your code doesn’t work or something’s not right, but at the same time, it’s worth it in the end because you have a finished product you can actually use, and you learn a lot at the same time.”

The main goal of Make BU was to give students the opportunity to have fun through the process of creating technology from scratch, said BUILDS Team Coordinator Connor McEwen.

“It’s a chance for computer science students to use a lot of the skills they learn in class to build something outside the classroom and work on side projects that they maybe always wanted to do but never had the chance,” Ewen, an ENG senior, said.

The hackathon included idea pitching, team planning, a series of workshops, mentoring sessions and a judging and awards ceremony, McEwen said.

“Everyone goes and pitches their idea, and then they have about an hour to brainstorm and team up with people,” he said. “There will be mentors there to help people flesh out their ideas and team up, and then the workshops are not mandatory, but …will go over some basic tools that people use to help people get started.”

Prizes were awarded in areas such as Best Web Product, Best Mobile Product and Most Fun. In total, groups consisting of two or more students presented 15 projects.

Raja Patel, an ENG junior who worked on an app for members of the Global App Initiative, said he enjoyed the motivated atmosphere and fast pace of the hackathon.

“It was actually pretty fun just because you’re in an environment where people want to sit down, create something and try to finish it as fast as possible … rather than meeting at random times and just working on something kind of laid back,” Patel said. “It was a lot more efficient.”

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